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Category: prayer

Go forth to the ends of the earth: Christian Life Community

The Christian Life Community World Executive Council annual meeting was held in Rome for Easter week of April 2022. On the plane home to Australia, somewhere between India and Indonesia, I penned these words in a prayer of thanks for the experience.

I reverence you, Lord, for bringing me to meet these people, spread across the distant reaches of the earth, united together in Rome, that ancient and eternal city. You blessed me through each one, you called me to trust that you would move among us. In our meeting in these days I felt your light embrace us as at your Transfiguration. I wanted to build three tents and stay at the Monte Cucco retreat house, thinking “it is good for us to be here”.

Christian Life Community World Executive Council meeting, Rome, April 2022

By now your grace is more clear than ever, a comfort in time of darkness and at all times an encouragement to keep going along the path of witness. We want to “go forth”, Lord, so show us the way*. Fan into flame our kindling twigs, be for us our heart’s desire. Help us discern the hope of your way, your truth, your life.

Send us forth, giving glory to your name. Give us courage to walk this path united with each other in prayer and service. Lead us and love us as we tread each step along the road. Make yourself known at the breaking of the bread!

Your Spirit moved for us each day at Monte Cucco. Your words of eternal life accompanied us when we did not know where to go. You brought forth laughter and heartfelt joy over meals. This community, this world community of friends, finds its life in you, in your presence and action, in your peace.

So send us out now to the ends of the earth for our lives at home, work and play await us. Send us out, Lord, to seek and find you in the ordinary moments of life in the city. May the light we saw at Monte Cucco send us out rejoicing, embracing your mission of renewal in a wounded world.


The next CLC World Assembly will be held in Amiens, France, in August 2023

*This line reflects the grace we will pray for at the World Assembly in Amiens, France in August 2023. The Convocation Letter outlines the following:

The grace we shall ask for: Lord, help us to go forth; show us the way.
The text from Scripture: You will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)
The theme of the 2023 Assembly: Discerning paths for hope

CLC World Assembly 2023, Amiens, France

Christian Life Community Australia:

Update: My friend Peter wrote a reflection on this prayer on his website

Mass in the rooms of Saint Ignatius
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The great Spirit moves hope among twenty one young women

I teach RE at a Catholic high school for girls. On Friday 11 March 2022, during period 1, my Year 8 students were to create a storyboard of key events from Holy Week and Easter. To centre the students in prayer before beginning their work, I introduced the Taizé chant “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom”. We sang the chant twice in a ‘call and response’ fashion. I wrote this poem during quiet reflection that evening.

Through the communal mingling
of voices, the great Spirit moves
among twenty-one young women,
kindling to fire their hopes for a new
world. In the quickening of call
and slowing of response, these singers
become carriers of joy, heralds
of freedom. This is the truth being
met, here are the people of God.
Look at them call out in unison
see them glance at each other
hear their enjoined words
and how can you not be moved?
In awe, open your eyes, lift up
your ears. These are the witnesses
to faith, these are the first responders
to suffering, these are the students
whose lives are to rebuild all things.

Image: Hans Vivek on Unsplash

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The wounded Ignatius responds to God’s call at Loyola

I delivered this talk for the Christian Life Community Asia Pacific online gathering for the start of the Ignatian year on Saturday 15 May 2021.

We start this Ignatian Year in the middle of a global pandemic. Like Ignatius in 1521, our lives have changed course this year. Just as for Ignatius, God is calling us through our experience.

Our beloved Ignatius was hit by a cannon ball 500 years ago this week, while leading his fellow soldiers into battle at Pamplona. Returning to his family home in Loyola to recover, his injuries confined him to a bedroom and he was reliant on the care of others. He asked for books to read: tales of soldiers like him who excelled in chivalry, power and glory. Ignatius accepted the only books available: The Lives of the Saints and The Life of Christ. He began to imagine and daydream over his desires for the future.

Ignatius’ active imagination left him feeling tired. However there was a difference between the two kinds of thoughts he experienced. The desires and dreams for personal glory with armour and romance gave him temporary delight which soon faded away. The desires and dreams toward giving service to God left him feeling deep satisfaction and joy for a long time.

God spoke to Ignatius through his experience. The reflective Ignatius discovered the movements of the heart which lead to God and away from God – his initial grasp of ‘the discernment of spirits’. As insight dawned, Ignatius listened deeply and so heard God’s call. He responded to this call with an open, generous and trusting heart.

The painful injury and long recovery gave Ignatius an opportunity to begin life again. Who he was, what life was for, and how God moved, could all be seen from a new perspective. Ignatius walked away from Loyola as a pilgrim.

This graced story of God at work through injury, pain, transformation and recovery can help us to live this time of pandemic. Pope Francis writes in Let us Dream: “A ‘stoppage’ can always be a good time for sifting, for reviewing the past, for remembering with gratitude who we are, what we have been given, and where we have gone astray. These are moments in life that can be ripe for change and conversion. Each of us has had their own “stoppage”, or if we haven’t yet, we will someday: illness, the failure of a marriage or a business, some great disappointment or betrayal. As in the COVID lockdown, those moments generate a tension, a crisis that reveals what is in our hearts.”

As with Ignatius’ experience, this pandemic has placed a stoppage on our former lives. We no longer travel to the same rhythms as before. We have been at home much more than usual, just like Ignatius at Loyola. Our communities and members have experienced pain, grief, lost jobs, upheaval for livelihoods, long lockdowns, family members contracting the virus, and the deaths of loved ones. Countless things have changed for us, some we do not understand. We have encountered our faith from a new perspective. Some CLC communities rightly describe this pandemic as a defining time in our lives.

In this meeting let us listen to God at work in our hearts. Let us open ourselves to hear God’s call. Let us reflect deeply and share with trust in each other.

We ask God our Lord for grace, that we may live this time with open and generous hearts. Saint Ignatius, pray for us!

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Plenary Council hope all began with group communal discernment

The Spirit will surely move a new thing among the people gathered at the first session of the Plenary Council in nine days’ time. 278 delegates from around the country will meet online to discern ways forward for the Catholic Church in Australia. The Plenary process, begun by the bishops’ conference, kicked off in 2018 with an ambitious local level “communal discernment” project involving 222000 people.

Local and national groups

Each local group spent time in active listening and intentional speaking, discerning their responses to the question “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” 17500 submissions were prepared and a small team wrote a 300 page report “Listen to what the Spirit is saying”. Out of that report came six national themes for discernment.

What people talked about” in the phase 1 consultation.

Six “Discernment and Writing groups” formed in October 2019, to listen for the Spirit within a particular area of church life. This involved sitting with and sifting all the perspectives and experiences both at the grassroots and within each group.

Prayer (personal and communal) was essential. A second round of “Listening and Discernment” was happening concurrently at the local level. Hundreds of short submissions were then sent directly to the six national groups, who each prepared a 5000 word thematic paper. [Note: I was part of the Prayerful and Eucharistic group.]

Final preparations for the Plenary Council

Bringing it all together, a working document was drafted, and out of that formed the agenda questions across themes of ‘conversion, prayer, formation, structures, governance, institutions’.

The Plenary Council’s agenda questions.

The 278 delegates have been preparing via formation sessions since June. Most recently the expert advisers (‘periti’) to the Plenary Council have been named, from scripture scholars to legal minds, and church historians to social justice experts.

The fact that the Council is happening for me is a sign of hope, so I’m just going to let the Spirit emerge as we go and I’m not going there with any preconceived expectations, I’m just going into it ready for what comes. Everyone has different hopes from it, but I think if we just go into it, ready to take on the journey then I think it will be really good.

Plenary Council member

Prayers to the Holy Spirit

The delegates go to the Plenary Council asking the People of God in Australia to pray for and with them. I am reminded of the Christian Life Community Asia Pacific Assembly in Korea 2019. When a leader from the Animating Team called on the Holy Spirit with confidence, we then had five to ten minutes of quiet prayer, asking the Spirit to be with us in our conversations.

This moved me greatly, and I felt encouraged to a deeper trust in God’s Spirit moving among the community. The Spirit can speak through each person (through you, through me), in the spaces between us, and deep in each of our hearts:

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth. 

Communal Discernment

The Plenary Council preparations have given the People of God in Australia an experience of “communal discernment”. This way seeks to follow the presence, movement and action of the Holy Spirit working within a group. It presupposes that each participant is discerning God’s presence, movement and action personally in their own life. As such the work of communal discernment draws deeply from the well of Ignatian Spirituality.

Nourished by the Scriptures and at Eucharist, we can ask for the grace to know where we are being drawn as a community. [At heart, we are drawn by God towards love and deeper into relationships, whereas we are driven to fear and mistrust by a contrary spirit.]

Together we can discern, as Jesuit John Dardis puts it “What’s the Trinity trying to do in the world today?” and then How can we best cooperate?

On the larger scale, this way of proceeding has been called “Synodality” within the Catholic Church. Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops have asked the global church to prepare for a 2023 synod looking deeper at this way. For Australia, at least, this path is being trod. May the work of the Plenary Council be fruitful.

Introduction to Spiritual Conversation, Jesuits Global
Plenary Council website:

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The wounded Ignatius is transformed at Loyola

On Saturday 15 May 2021, CLC in Asia-Pacific met for a virtual meeting celebrating the start of the Ignatian Year. The Jesuits and wider Ignatian family are marking 500 years since Saint Ignatius of Loyola was injured on 20 May 1521 while leading troops into battle at Pamplona. His subsequent transformation became evident while recovering in his family home at Loyola.

I wrote a reflection “Ignatius responds to God’s call at Loyola”, which was used as an input for reflection, and then members shared in small break-out rooms. I wrote the following two poems on the morning of the meeting.

Ignatius and transformation

He was struck low in body
and found himself low in spirit.
Wounded physically and mentally
recovery would take a long time:
he could not skip any stage
but be drawn slowly towards life
by the God of life. This much
is true: that pain can open windows
into transformation, and gentle light
wakes the sleeping heart.
A long season spent dreaming and hoping
will prepare you to embrace a larger world,
one of service and glad reconciling,
of graced relationships. You do not know
where you are going, but a trusting
heart is what matters.

A reflection corner
I prepared a reflection corner for the day. Clockwise from top left: Mary, Empress of China; a gift to the members of the CLC Asia-Pacific animating team on their election in Korea late in 2019 – each member was given one letter out of “CLC AP”; a statue of Ignatius placing his sword down before the Black Madonna at the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat; a contemporary translation of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises which I prayed with during my 2011 30 day retreat; Open My Eyes, a hymn we sing at my parish; a crucifix bought at Los Angeles cathedral; a quote from St Paul in English and Chinese bought while in Hong Kong in late 2019.


Grace starts a person’s journey into thanksgiving
and praise – giving glory to God.
Each day made for us is good:
filled with encounters, leaning toward
gladness, opening a path to walk in.
Enthusiasm is a path into joy,
fullness of life in God’s presence.

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The graced challenge of a Discernment and Writing Group on the path to the Plenary Council

The “Prayerful and Eucharistic” Discernment and Writing Group (DWG) formed a small church together for six months of prayer, Eucharist, and discernment in person and on Zoom. We had an age group from 30s to 81, with the majority 30, 40, 50, 60…then 75 and 81. We were two bishops, two priests, two religious women and seven lay people. We had four and then three women. We had every decade represented, over pre-Vatican 2 to post-Vatican 2 church and we had all come from diverse experiences of belonging to that church. We took with us our background, our engagement with church, and what manner we had that engagement within parish, profession and vocation. We were committed people of faith as church architect, school educator, academic, scripture scholar, retreat master, church publications officer, church historian, youth minister, parish pastoral associate, professional nurse, Cathedral liturgist, lay, priest, religious and bishop. So we had quite a large experience of belonging to the Church within a group of 13. We represented a cross-section of where God’s people were at in being church, and the reality of Australia. We were faithful to each other in respecting that each of us were discerning where we were coming from.

A Pentecost experience

The experience was all-consuming and constant. Our induction was in late October 2019. We soon were mourning the sickness and then death of our first chair, Perth scripture scholar Sr Clare Sciesinski PBVM. Gathering in her memory over Zoom, God’s Spirit moved among us like the disciples in that Pentecost room. That prayer evening brought us together and revived our faith in God’s presence and action within our group.

We prayed the Plenary Council prayer fervently: “Come Holy Spirit of Pentecost, Come Holy Spirit of the Great South Land”. And true enough, God’s Spirit was poured out on us and we were given language for our sorrow and words for our work.

1. The grace and challenge of communal discernment

“Please note: the discernment papers are the fruits of communal discernment, which does not necessarily reflect the individual perspectives of each of the group members. The Plenary Council team sincerely thanks all contributors.” This small note on page two of the paper acknowledges that all our process and writing came about because of “communal discernment”. Our Church has only begun to learn how to do this. As a Discernment and Writing Group, we struggled to know how to grow together into our discernment and then see how it impacted our writing.

It was a very difficult process, one which had never been attempted before. We were grappling with the unredeemed parts of the Church, those areas where we have not let Christ’s love transform us. The voices in our DWG were somewhat representative of the voices of many people among the people of God in phases One and Two of grassroots participation. Thankfully, the discussion never stooped into recriminations. Yes, people spoke out of their experience, theology and tradition. Differences of opinion within our group and in the grassroots data were there, named and expressed. In bringing these into the light, the Holy Spirit could move among us.

Our communal discernment, then, involved bringing seemingly incompatible positions together, with something new emerging that everyone could hold to. We couldn’t grasp onto our own opinion too strongly in this process. It wasn’t majority rules as in a parliamentary democracy. It was a process of calling on God’s Holy Spirit for help with discerning, writing and editing the paper.

The paper names Communal Discernment as one of the major fruits of the Plenary Council already: 

“For many within the Church, the Plenary Council ‘communal discernment’ has been a new and graced experience. By its very nature, communal discernment can build community. This important practice needs leadership and training, however, for many among the faithful are unfamiliar with its aspects of basic listening, depth of prayer, time and letting go of attachment to one’s own opinion.”

The Prayerful and Eucharistic paper

The Church in Australia was encouraged to bring together lay leaders and clergy for training in communal discernment, affirming this path as a “privileged way of making important decisions” which affect the body of the Church. This way of being church builds conversation, community and attentive commitment to the movement and action of God’s Spirit.

2. Four desires in phase one leading to four major challenges. A golden thread in the structure of the paper.

The discernment question for our Discernment and Writing Group was: How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is Prayerful and Eucharistic? The first part of the paper makes sense of the Listening and Dialogue responses from the People of God, 222000 peoples’ voices and 18000 submissions, sometimes called ‘Phase One’. These responses “revealed the deep faith, integrity and sincerity of all the people who gave of themselves in their offerings”.

In Phase One, God had brought forth four key desires among the People of God for discernment within the paper:

  • Desire 1: to be invited and empowered to “full, conscious and active participation” – which was later named as participation
  • Desire 2: to meet God in daily life and so experience encouragement through appropriate faith formation
  • Desire 3: to nurture the communal aspect of our life together – which was later named as community
  • Desire 4: to nourish, accompany, give witness, support, invite, welcome, engage and be present to others – which was later named as mission.

In seeking to be faithful to the people’s offerings, the Discernment and Writing Group explored these four desires as four Major Challenges: community; participation; formation; and mission – which then became four areas for Prioritised Questions and Proposals for Change

3. A changing pastoral reality

The Pastoral Reality part of the document aimed to take a snapshot of the social and communal context of the Church in Australia pre-COVID19. In so doing, it names the decline of trust in church leaders. It acknowledged that parish sacramental and communal life was on the periphery of the lives of the majority of those who made contact with the Catholic community. The paper states that “In 2016, approximately 12% of all Catholics were regularly participating in the celebration of the Eucharist.” Overall those who do participate at Eucharist have “a strong desire not to be merely spectators, but active participants”.

4. A Church that is open to change

A conversion moment for me occurred around one simple phrase which made its way into the Theological Vision statement. The phrase is: “A Church that is open to change”. The Pastoral Reality section had made clear the ways our Church is marked by change. But now, in the Theological Vision the paper claims that we are a Church that is open to change. A Church that is open to change is one which encourages all of us to be centred on what matters most while being bold in embracing God’s call for today.

This heralds a new path for being church – an exciting opening. This movement itself is significant for the Plenary Council. The Council is built on the grassroots prayer and thinking of God’s people. Professor Ormond Rush has described this as a “reverse pyramid”, where God speaks words of renewal and grace through God’s people, and what we hear transforms our Church, its ways and structures. All Plenary Council consultations relied on a deep trust and prayerful discernment of what the Spirit was saying.

5. Encouraged by the Emmaus encounter

The Emmaus encounter (Luke 24:13-35) forms the heart of the paper’s Theological Vision. The text offers much encouragement and insight into the encounter with God which is at the heart of us being Prayerful and Eucharistic. The Risen Lord meets the disciples in their sadness, disillusionment and discouragement. Jesus walks with them, hears them out, breaks open the scriptures, and joins them at table. “It is when Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to the disciples that they recognise him”. The disciples were able to go on to the communal gathering in Jerusalem with joy and hope, their faith rekindled.

6. Four thematic areas of challenge, questions and proposals for change 

The four sections outlined in the Major Challenges section provided a response to the four desires which came through in Phase One consultations. They also delivered four areas for discernment and four frames for Prioritised Questions and Proposals for Change for a Prayerful and Eucharistic Church: community, participation, formation and mission. The paper did not look with ecumenical glasses, and there is a strong focus on the Roman Rite. It is worth considering how the paper may have been different if we were writing during the pandemic.

A. Community – how can we develop as a Prayerful and Eucharistic community that is united in Christ while valuing and celebrating diverse spiritualities, customs and authentic liturgical practice? 

In the Response to Phase One Listening and Dialogue, the paper noted that “there is a yearning among God’s people to nurture the communal aspect of our life” as the Church in Australia. In reimagining how we can develop as a Prayerful and Eucharistic community, the paper took inspiration from the example of the early church. Small and intimate communities made a great impact on the people of the first centuries of church life. Inspired by this example, the Church in Australia can reimagine the model of parish and connected communities, prioritising “the creation of small communities of faith and life”.

The paper proposed that the Church in Australia implement collaborative decision making and communal discernment as an ongoing way of proceeding. The paper also proposed easing the limitations on local bishops being able to permit communal celebrations of the third rite of the Sacrament of Penance – a restorative sacramental liturgy for the whole community. These proposals would allow the Church in Australia to become more and more a Prayerful and Eucharistic community “one body, one Spirit in Christ” (Ephesians 4:4),

B. Participation – how can we best encourage full, conscious and active participation in the liturgical and prayerful life of the Church community?

One of the key desires emerging among God’s people through the Listening and Dialogue phase was that they would enjoy the “full, conscious and active participation” in liturgical celebrations which the Vatican 2 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy declared as their right and duty.

The paper lamented that this “full, conscious and active participation” is not always evident in the sacramental and daily life of the church. Like Jacob wrestling with the angel, the paper tussled with this phrase and its implications. It meditated on the fact that at baptism we are proclaimed “priest, prophet and king”. The paper noted that “the prayers at Eucharist are translated in a style that many feel excludes them from engaging”. It then considered the “priesthood of the baptised laity” and argued such priesthood is not promoted well in church life. This meant that Eucharistic celebrations were diminished as we were not drawing out all the gifts of the faithful, gifts given by the Holy Spirit.

The Proposals for Change were tangible ways “full, conscious and active participation” could be imagined for our time. A review of the translation of the Missal and a revision of the Lectionary would make the prayers and readings at Mass more accessible. Commissioning lay women and men to exercise their leadership more frequently in our sacramental life would enrich the Church. Drawing forth the ministry, experience and insight of lay people, however, requires being open to “the Spirit’s boldness, to trust in, and concretely to permit, the growth of a specific ecclesial culture that is distinctively lay” (Pope Francis, Querida Amazonia, 94).

C. Formation – How do we walk together as a pilgrim church that effectively accompanies, ministers to and forms people, in light of secular and religious practice, as a community of Christ’s disciples? 

In contemplating the desire of God’s people for formation, the Church in Australia ought to remember Luke’s Gospel when the disciples ask Jesus “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Jesus’ response is the Our Father. The paper affirms that God’s people seek formation in faith, prayer, and discernment so as to “flourish in faith and grow into our full stature” as disciples. The paper affirms that formation is best when God shapes lay and ordained together.

The paper proposes renewing the sacramental life of the church by reviewing the steps for inclusion in the Catholic community and developing new liturgical and prayerful experiences which meet transition moments in peoples’ lives. There are proposals for an online hub which would encourage prayer in the Church through theologically-sound video and audio prayer resources. The paper encouraged dioceses to prepare programs to form people in prayer and discernment. There was a need for national and local formation opportunities of spiritual formation for young people, couples, liturgical musicians, and alumni of Catholic schools. There was encouragement for the Plenary Council to consider how we may form priests and lay people together. These Proposals for Change attempt to revitalise our pilgrim church and pave the way for mission.

D. Mission – How can our practice of being prayerful and Eucharistic draw us and others to Christ?

In surveying mission for a Church that is Prayerful and Eucharistic, the paper draws inspiration from the conclusion to Mark’s Gospel. Jesus calls us to “go out into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). Mission in daily life calls us to hands-on commitments. Christ calls us to love the poor, build justice and care for creation. Following Pope Francis, the Church needs to open wide the doors of its life to people.

The Proposals for Change sought to build encouragement for people: through the dismissal rite, and through invitations to God’s people to discern commitments to concrete ministries of service, justice and ecology. The paper affirms the development and implementing of strategies to relate with people alienated from our Catholic community by disillusionment, injury and isolation. These Proposals for Change sought to ensure that we become a people who reconcile with rivals and hear the cries of the earth and the poor, ever mindful of welcoming and including the isolated.


All told, our Discernment and Writing Group prepared a paper for the good of the people of God as the Church in Australia. We experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit as at Pentecost. We were sent out from the upper room as companions, graced with new words of encouragement and hope.

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21

You may read the paper at

By James O’Brien, member of the Prayerful and Eucharistic group from October 2019 – April 2020.

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That more urgent longing: seeking God in prayer

In this time of great change and challenge, as we stare down a pandemic, prayer seems all the more urgent and necessary. Many of us need God’s strength in these days. I believe that seeking God in prayer is indeed a more urgent longing than anything else. The God I long for is the One in whom I find comfort and consolation. This is a God in whom we can hope.

God of my longing

God of my longing,
I wait on your movement within:
draw me close to you
lead me to rest in your embrace.
God of my longing,
I cry out for your presence:
make yourself known to me
grant me your compassion.
God of my longing,
I seek your peace in the quiet:
the embrace of your Spirit
the joy of your life.
Photo by Umit Bulut on Unsplash
God of my longing,
I yearn for your tender love:
to renew my mind
to make music in my heart.
God of my longing,
I want your very self:
create fresh confidence within me
to reach out after your hand.
God of my longing,
I call on your name in the morning:
hear my voice, listen to my request
be with me in joy and distress.
God of my longing,
I sing of your goodness before the peoples:
gather us in solidarity and companionship
move great communion among us.
Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash
God of my longing,
I believe your light is the true north star:
shine brightly in the night of darkness
be the guiding hope of this age.
God of my longing, 
I ask for your invitation today:
send a new call to my ears
give me the grace to respond.

Prayer and discernment

The inner encounter in daily life renews us for what we are to do. In calling on God’s name, and resting in God’s presence, prayer opens the heart to experience God moving within and among us. So it is that the door may open into a deeper peace and a renewed sense of hope – and other gifts from the giver.

It is on the days of distance
that my heart expresses its deepest yearning.
It is on the days of darkness
that I seek the light with which to see.
It is on the days of distress
that my plea for comfort is heard.

We may in time notice a growing sense of ease in relating with God and an encouragement to keep going, both sure signs of God’s Spirit with us. We may also grow in our ability to recognise contrary movements for what they are – disturbances from the spirit of dis-ease and discouragement. Thus, we grow in our felt need for ‘discernment’ in daily life.

A prayer for these times

God of all goodness and consolation, be with our communities. Make us aware of your presence with us. Give each person the deep peace, comfort and patience needed to get through this time. Send life to our minds and joy to our hearts. May we see ourselves and each person as indeed precious in your eyes, honoured and loved (Isaiah 43:4). Send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth. Amen.

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Finding God in Christian Life Community

CLC is a lay community and public world association of women and men shaped by the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola. It is a way of Christian life for people drawn to attend to the presence of God in their lives.

Until two years ago I had lived all my life in close quarters with family within the Greater Sydney area bound by the Blue Mountains and Bondi. When for several months I experienced a deep and returning desire to move to Melbourne, I discerned this as a divine invitation. I arrived in July 2016, turned 29, and began a Masters of Teaching at ACU.

I experienced a newfound freedom. I was blessed with my friends. But there were challenges, and I felt adrift. Thankfully, soon after arriving I was twice invited to go to a Christian Life Community (CLC) group for young-er people. On the second invitation I responded with a tentative yes – and one Wednesday evening in the Spring I arrived for a 7pm start.

Warm welcome

I discovered a group of some seven people, each from varied backgrounds and di[erent stages of life. I noticed a familiarity with one another, and a warm welcome for me the newcomer.

Soon I was introduced to a way of reflection and sharing which would make a lasting impression on me.

We begin by ‘checking in’ with how we come. We pray with Scripture and silence. We speak on how the prayer resonates with how we are each travelling personally. We listen attentively over two rounds of sharing. At the end of the meeting there is a ‘check out’ where again we name how we are.

In my first semester I studied for five Masters level subjects. I was flat-out, stressed, and fatigued. After a couple of fortnightly Wednesdays, CLC became a non-negotiable in my calendar. Each gathering was a safe resting place for my spirit.

I remember one night I turned up discouraged and tempted to despair. At the time I didn’t realise I was experiencing what St Ignatius of Loyola called ‘desolation’ (the felt absence of God). During the meeting this began to lift. I then noticed myself feeling renewed in the following days. In time I saw desolation as part of my journey to an Easter faith.

Pattern of sharing

Another evening we were reflecting on Pope Francis’ ecological encyclical Laudato Si’. Members spoke with an attentiveness to the land we live on and reflections on how we respond to people experiencing homelessness. The pattern of our sharing reminded me of the Pope’s line quoting Latin American theologian Leonardo Boff on hearing ‘the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’. I found it incredible that within one meeting we heard those cries together.

Now I am coming up on two years with my CLC group. We have supported each other in tremendous loss and abundance. We have reflected on how we live our personal call. We have welcomed two newborns, and one has been to a meeting. We have participated in events with the wider Victorian, Australian, and global dimensions of our Christian Life Community. We are also prayerfully considering our response to Plenary Council 2020.

Belonging to a community

As I experience work beyond university, I take heart that I can continue to gather with my CLC group each fortnight. I am grateful to have a discerning community where I am held, lifted up, and reminded that I am both loved and called. Ultimately, I belong to a community alive to the call of Christ, generously responding in the particular situations of our personal lives, and coming together for inspiration and renewal.

For more, visit

The CLC meeting structure

The following is a general outline of a typical CLC meeting process.

Check inIn a period of silent reflection, members may share briefly an image, a word or a phrase describing how each comes to the meeting.

Prayer: Scripture/reading, extended silence, perhaps some music. Often has a theme.

Sharing on the prayer and/or review of life since last meeting: In a pattern of listening and discerning, each person present speaks without being interrupted.

Exchange: A second round where each is invited to respond to what someone has shared, further reflect on the theme of the meeting, or seek feedback from the community.

News from wider CLC: community business.

Evaluation or check out: Noticing how movements have shifted during the meeting. 

Final prayer: Sent out with a prayer such as the Glory Be, Our Father, or Hail Mary.

A version of this article was first published in AusCaths magazine on 30 October 2018

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Days of Pandemic, Weeks of Renewal: a hopeful prayer-poem

A hopeful prayer-poem in the midst of the pandemic:

God of all days
These days of pandemic are weeks of separation
Build new stretches of community across our cities
Draw forth relationships of mutuality and care
Move families and friends to balm each other’s sorrow.
God of all days
These days of pandemic are weeks of darkness
Renew the earth with the pattern of your light
Send new life to peoples, animals, plants,
Give fresh vitality to the soil, the waters, the sky.
God of all days
These days of pandemic are weeks of renewal
Send forth your Spirit upon us
Form steadfast hearts within us
Beating at the sound of your voice.
God of all days
These days of pandemic are weeks of challenge
Be the guiding presence in our communities
Be the animator of our plans
Be the breath of our hopes.
God of all days
These days of pandemic are weeks of invitation
Call us close to your very self
Draw us into supporting each other
Bless us with light and life.
An image made of this poem by CLC Philippines
God of all days
These days of pandemic are weeks of fear
Tend our hopes with affection
Walk with us in our darkness
Speak words of comfort and peace.
God of all days
These days of pandemic are weeks of waiting
Draw us to your Word as consolation
Give us ears to listen deeply
Move songs of grief and love in our hearts.
God of all days
These days of pandemic are weeks of upheaval
Hear our deep desires
Listen to our cries from the pit of frustration
Resound new music on our lips.
God of all days
These days of pandemic are weeks of quiet
Give our streets a sense of calm
Help our health workers in their time of need
Guide our leaders to reflect on their experience.
from United Nations Covid-19 Response on Unsplash
God of all days
These days of pandemic are weeks of mystery
Unfold the grace of tranquility in our minds
Unfurl the banners of your peace before the peoples
Give us the means to glorify your name.
God of all days
These days of pandemic are weeks of insight
Transform our hearts with your presence
Grant grace and peace to our spirits
Send us out as servants, finding joy day by day.

Update: this poem was republished by CLC Philippines on 20 August 2020
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